« הקודםהמשך »
convinced her, that being as good as she could' was perfectly right, and of the utmost importance; yet that there was something more in religion. They also made me more in love with Christianity. I also sent for Bishop Watson's Apology for the Bible, in Letters to T. Paine ; Bishop Porteus's Compendium of the Evidences of Christianity, Butler's Divine Analogy, Paley's Evidences of Christianity, Pilgrim's Good Intent, Pascal's Thoughts, Addison's Evidences of Christianity, Conibeare on Revealed Religion, Madam de Genlis's Religion the only Basis of Happiness and sound Philosophy, with Observations on pretended modern Philosophers, 2 vols., Jenkin's Reasonableness and Certainty of Christianity; and several others of the same tendency. Those excellent defences of revealed religion I read through, during which I had many struggles; in the beginning sometimes cried out in the words of Thomas, “Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief :' before I had read out those defences, I was not only almost, but altogether persuaded to be a Christian. And I hape that I shall always endeavour to live as becometh the gospel of Christ; and, at times, I feel an humble confi. dence that God has, or will, pardon all my past sins for the sake of Christ, and by his grace enable me to persevere in well doing to the end of this transitory life, and then admit me into that state where the wonders of his grace and the mysteries of his providence shall be more clearly understood.
“I meant to inform you, that besides those books already mentioned, I sent for Bishop Horne's Sermons, 4 vols., Carr's Sermons, Blair's Sermons, 5 vols., Scott's Christian Life, 5 vols., several learned and sensible expositions of the Bible; Calmet's Dictionary of the Bible, with the Fragments; Josephus's Works, Prideaux's Connections, 4 vols., Mrs H. More's Works, and various other excellent works. For some time one sermon was read on every Sunday, but soon Mrs L. began to like them, and then two or three were read in the course of the week; at last one at least was read every day, and very often part of some other book in divinity; as Mrs L. said that she preferred such kind of reading far beyond the reading of novels. So that for some time we have read more books in divinity than on any other subjects; and now Mrs L. sees very important reasons for going to church, sacrament, &c.
“ I now sit down to give you a few more particulars relating to my conversion to Christianity. My conversion was not instantaneous, bat progressive; for, in retreating from the cause of infidelity, I disputed every inch of ground before I relinquished it. Í found it impossible long to remain a downright atheist, but was sceptical for some years; and I even had an atheistical pamphlet, which was hard to be come at, reprinted, on hearing that the author had in great haste taken away nearly the whole of his own impression from the different booksellers where they had been left for sale. I also advised a Scotch book. seller to reprint another work in the cause of infidelity; which he did, and I purchased many of the impression and sold them. During this period I did not think that the belief, or disbelief, of any article of faith had any influence on the morals of mankind.
“ About nine or ten years since, one of the French emigrants wanted me very much to print a translation from the French of an atheistical work; but having begun to see the bad effects of such publications, he could not prevail on me to have anything to do with him or his works; nor from that time do I recollect vending any of the new productions of that kind, or any prohibited democratical work; indeed I never would disseminate any disloyal publications, but steadily ever resisted the temptations on that head, even from men of high rank and title.
“I for many years had doubts as to the immortality of the soul, and, at intervals, disbelieved that doctrine; but as I occasionally read the Night Thoughts of Dr Young, his strong arguments in favour of the soul's immateriality and immortality, prevented ine from settling in unbelief on that important article. I also once dreamed, (pray do not laugh and think me still dreaming,) that I saw the finest poem I had ever read in my life; on which I reasoned thus. As I never saw any composition equal to that which I read in my dream; and as from the ideas which I retained of it when I awoke, it appeared a thousand times more beautiful than anything I could compose when awake, therefore my soul must be immaterial ; for otherwise I could not, while in a state of sleep, have combined and arranged such a variety of beautiful and delightful ideas as to me appeared a new creation. On this head bishop Butler says, 'that we have no reason to think our organs of sense percipients, is confirmed by instances of persons losing some of them, the living beings themselves, their former occupiers, remaining unimpaired. It is confimed also by the experience of dreams; by which we find we are at present possessed of a latent, and, what would otherwise be an unimagined, unknown power of perceiving sensible objects, in as strong and lively a manmanner without our external organs of sense as with them.”
These details of his re-conversion are occasionally interlarded with naïve remarks upon more worldly matters, as will be seen by that part of the following extract which relates to cheap printing.
“ About eight years since, the being and providence of God were a good deal impressed
on my mind, so that I often reflected on those important subjects in my garden, in the fields, in bed, in short in all places. The principles and duties of natural religion had some influence on my mind and conduct. I sometimes went to church, where I felt a spirit of devotion ; so that I found my heart engaged in the prayers, and
felt some degree of thankfulness to God. I also felt the same spirit of devotion at times when not at church. Nor could I help admiring the character of Christ; bis precepts also appeared to me perfectly well calculated to promote both public and private happiness.
“ In this state of mind I went quietly and contentedly on for some years. As I had no relish for the ridiculous pursuits of those around me, my amusement was reading, or, now and then, scribbling.
"I at last (as I have before informed you) began to read some extracts from books on divinity, which I found in the reviews. Those extracts gave me a more thoughtful turn, and left my mind open to conviction. The first entire work that I read in defence of revealed religion was archdeacon Paley's View of the Evidences of Christianity. This very excellent work I perhaps never should have read, had I not met with a pirated edition of it, (the whole being printed in one volume duodecimo, on decent paper, which I bought bound for three and sixpence. I ever was disgusted and put out of humour when I saw any work spaced out with leads, and other contrivances used to enlarge its bulk, and to make it sell for four times the price it might be well afforded at: there are many thousands of my mind who will not purchase where such extortion is practised. The work in question might be handsomely printed in one volume (instead of two) octavo, for such as wish for a handsome edition; and for such as wish to have it cheap, it might be printed on a decent paper, in duodecimo, and sold bound for three shillings and sixpence: were this done there would be no bounds to the sale of it, as thousands would be given away, and very great good done; and the publisher would in the end get more by it. I would just observe also, that when books in divinity are published at such extravagant prices, the authors (who, sometimes having sold or given away their copyright, have no hand in
setting the prices) are blamed and looked upon as extortioners, while they are enforcing the pure doctrines and precepts of the gospel.—But, to return from this digression.
“ By the time I had gone through this very able and convincing work once, I was effectually humbled, and obliged to cry out, God be merciful to me a dreadful sinner! I was obliged to confess, that the wisdom, power, and love of God were displayed in the gospel.
“But although I was convinced that the gospel was a revelation from God, yet I had great doubts as to the dispensations contained in the Old Testament: nor did I think the New Testament an inspired work: in short, I gave little more credit to either the Old or New Testament, than I did to Xenophon or Livy. As I believed that Xenophon and Livy were honest men, and faithful historians, I therefore credited their narrations. And even in this view of the authors of the New Testament, I could not help believing that the Christian religion was a revel of the will of God. On the same evidence I saw that I ought to believe the Old Testament dispensations were from God; yet the various objections which unbelievers have repeatedly made to the Jewish dispensation, together with many texts in the Old Testament, were difficulties I could not get over, until I had read part of Paley again: and also the third enlarged edition of the first volume, and the second edition of the second volume of Jenkin's Reasonableness and Certainty of the Christian Religion. This very extraordinary, learned, and sensible work, gave me ample satisfaction on those heads :-and it is worth remarking, that this work was written before Tindal, Collins, Morgan, &c. wrote their objections and misrepresentations, which makes them the more inexcusable. I have induced several of the clergy to look into this masterly work, who now think it a performance that discovers great
ading, great abilities, and biblical learning.